Sound in Silence x2 – Liam J Hennessy – Held / [.que] – Wonderland.

Sound in Silence is the fine Greek label run by George Mastrokostas (aka Absent Without Leave) and his two most recent release are from the UK’s Liam J Hennessey and Japan’s [.que]. Amongst a roster that includes the likes of bvdub, Wil Bolton, Hessien, Daniel W J Mackenzie and Absent Without Leave, these latest released are a fine addition to the catalog.

Liam Hennessey a few years ago recorded under the name Drops and produced a 7″ in an edition of 1 and a CD ep on Heat Death records as well as a split digital ep with Umber (who features on this release). For the last few years he has been focusing on music for film and television and in 2016 started a project of recording one song every month. “Held” is the result of half of this project. Hennessey’s music is highly melodic with a nice balance of natural acoustic and electronic elements.

The label states that the construction of “All tracks include field recordings and found sounds, captured with a portable microphone on trips to various places during the month each track was recorded. The sounds captured were used as the basis of the tracks, giving a nice natural sound, while the field recordings where chopped up and manipulated to make the beats. Then layers of nostalgic guitar melodies were added and filled with additional background ambience created with a mixture of guitar swells, ebow, warm synths and lots of filters and reverb.” 

“Frozen Lights” opens with field recordings of water and nature sounds and light Synth drones before sprawling guitar leads somewhat reminiscent of Robin Guthrie weaves their magic, before acoustic guitars and scattered beats clatter around. The track then has more focused traditional beats that hold the track and give it the base for it center it. Layering of guitars give it the depth, volume and light and makes it a pastoral post rock almost folktronica.  In the past the comparison with Message to Bears has been made and is comes through in this track, which is not a bad comparison at all.

“Beacons (feat. Good Weather For An Airstrike)” has that classic ambient sound of uplifting drones mixed with field recordings and layers of different tone guitars with sections of field recordings used as a pexcessive device. Elements drop out to reveal just the guitars before a drone brings in a section of crunchy beats that become the focus while sounds of children playing float and then the guitars again become the focus. Military like percussion builds up the pace in the final minute as it joins the scratchy crunchy elements of before and leads the guitars to the end. For all the elements that are included in the track there is no feeling of overcrowding. While I am not aware of who contributed what to the track, the collaboration works extremely well.

“Soen”  layers the acoustic and guitars, underpinned by drones with a shaker like percussive instrument and glitchy micro-beats. The building guitars that swell in their number and rise in their intensity is the focal point to the track. It shows Hennessey’s ability at constructing something with such depth with relatively few elements. 

“Mirror Lake (feat. Umber)” sees Hennessey re-untied with his fellow split ep artist. The track begins with backwards loops and drones before crisp acoustic guitar creeps slowly into the mix, the field recording made beats and an almost alt country like drone and central guitar part become the feature. The music is very bright and summery with a heavy dose of melody and because of the Alt country feel adds something different to the album.

“Over the Bay” was the first track from the project to be uploaded on Soundcloud and is a fitting penultimate track. Cinematic drones, spindly guitars, field recordings, loops, the crinkling of undergrowth, the way elements drop out and then are rebuilt in a different configuration, the panning of sound, the timbres of the guitars all work well together. 

“Viewpoint” takes the elements that have featured in the previous tracks and adds more of a standard ‘rock formation’ with percussion (maybe not traditional percussion, but more than the previous field recording based beats) and bass and rather than an ambient styled track it’s definitely in the post-rock mould. The track opens with what sounds, acoustic guitars and drones before coming fully fleshed. While it is nice, for me the joy is in the previous less ‘rock’ tracks.

As mentioned before the Message to Bears comparison is still valid, but Hennessey is as equally talented as Jerome Alexander and his constructions are lush and interesting. A mention must go to the mastering by George as all sounds are fully realized and vibrant.

There are times when you can hear a piece of music and you can determined the countries origin straight away. This release by Japan’s Nao Kakimoto aka [.que] is one such release. Some Japanese music can infuse a sense of whimsy and innocence in the music and this is one such release. Since 2010 he has released seven albums, one ep and three singles on labels such as Schole,  IntroDuCing! and his own Embrace label. This, his eighth album and the first I have heard, is according to the label “a concept album of ten tracks based on ideas that started taking shape when Kakimoto composed the soundtrack of the short film Kurokawa Wonderland back in 2015. Harmonizing the warmth of acoustic instruments and folk elements with electronic textures and field recordings,  [.que] creates a wonderful album full of emotional melodies and delicate rhythms.”

“Quiet” opens with closer coming and receding footsteps, the sound of rain pouring and the delicate keys of a piano with a melodic sound that could easily melt the ears of those not too partial to piano playing. It is coupled with a string section like drone with some backwards loops paning in and out.  It sets the mood for the rest of the album.

“Faraway” opens with a similar piano loop with cascading and receding electronics before glitch beats and cymbals are joined by folktronic elements and rhythmic beats, layered Synth drones and spiraling layered guitars. There are alot of elements going on, but the central part to this whole track is melody which is present in all the parts.

“Drip” opens with reverb laden acoustic guitar coupled with squelchy, glitchy scattershot electronics that seem to inhabit a nowhere zone in the track until a beat rears its head and leads age track in a direction where all the elements unwind into their own space. The most experimental of the tracks so far, it is over before it can start falling apart.

“Forest” is a short minimalist piece where a distant looping rumble falls behind a piano which is accompanied by birdsong. The looping reminds of sounds of a train rolling along wooden tracks and has a broken beat sort of sound to it. The piano has the feel of effects or processing as the notes linger and travel out infusing the track with ambience. 

“Vast” is mostly electronic in nature with the exception being the organic nature of the piano. Electronics filter and flutter, glitches pop in and out, sped up keys run in circles, Synth washes ebb and flow while a metronomic beat gives the track structure and form for the instruments such as the piano to pace alongside. The glitch elements remind me of Nobukazu Takemura. 

“Waterfall” panning backwards loops, drones, field recordings of a storm, guitar form the structure to this track. Without a percussive element it gives the track the feel of an intro as opposed to a fully fleshed track. You are almost waiting for the next section to begin.

“Afterglow” sees Kakimoto return to the fusion of ambient elements of drones, electronics and field recordings alongside guitars, basses and percussion. Some of the percussion in electronic nature, alongside hand claps or snapping of fingers gives it a retro feel. This is the most driving song, but also sharing a light theme on the album with the percussion and guitar leading the way while the Synth drones pulse to provide an extra element of percussion. 

“Nostalgia” sees the layering of acoustic guitars and an electric guitar joined by soft Synth keys that counterpoint the melody of one of the layers of guitars. Unfortunately it is over too briefly as it’s a really pleasant track that could be expanded. 

“Laputa” glitches and static from vinyl are joined by a series of cut up backwards loops one of which evolves onto a part that doesn’t sound like guitar, but some sort of string element, acoustic guitar and electronic tones reminiscent of a phone dial pad. The elements start faded out with a drone coupling the string part alongside the vinyl crackles and electronic tones. Kakimoto shows his strength on fusing elements that seem to be disparate and being able to construct tracks with them.

“Wonderland (Album edit)” makes me wonder if this is from the film or just inspired by it. Layers of drones are joined by electronic blips and blops before a retro percussive Synth section joins on and the more frantic beats reminiscent of earlier track “Drip”, but also give the feeling of a live drummer doing a version of drum n bass. There is a respite part in the middle of the track wwhereas cymbal crash leads to where the beats slow to just bass drum beats the piano and electronics flow before another cymbal crash brings the track back to pace.

Described by the label as being of interest to fans of The Album Leaf, Message to Bears, Epic45 and Miaou (another Sound in Silence artist), this release is fully realised and not tentative. Kakimoto layering and structuring are exemplary and is use of both nature and electronic means are well fused together. Again hats of Mastrokostas’ mastering which is vibrant and clear. 

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